Properly installing fence posts is the key to a good fence, whether made of wood, vinyl or chain link a fence can only be as sturdy as its posts.
In some designs, the posts are the only supports for the fence. So, setting them securely, bracing them, and making them straight are essential.
Step by Step to Installing Fence Posts
When you’ve decided where the posts should go dig a hole at each spot about a third of the length of the post plus six inches. Using a post-hole digger is the best way, since it removes the minimum amount of dirt needed, leaving the rest for support. In a pinch a sturdy shovel will do. Try to remove no more dirt than necessary.
If you can’t manage a third of the length of the post plus six inches, extra support can be provided by a combination of more gravel and/or concrete around the post or extra bracing. More concrete will require a slightly wider hole.
Once you’ve emptied the hole, tamp the earth down inside as well as possible. Then fill at least half the hole with water and let it subside. Observe how long it takes to drain. That will give an indication of how loose the soil is and the type. Fast draining indicates loose or sandy soil. Less solid earth requires more gravel and/or concrete and possibly a deeper and slightly wider hole.
Keep in mind that in most climates rain will sooner or later soak the area around the post. The goal is to set the post and build the fence to withstand a range of weather, including high winds and buckets of rain. A little extra effort at this stage will save a lot more in lack of repairs later.
Once the earth is tamped down, fill the bottom six inches with gravel or concrete or both. Concrete should set enough to allow the post to stand up straight without support, but not enough to prevent inserting the post. That will vary from an hour to several hours depending on the mixture and the weather. Follow the instructions on the bag.
If concrete is used, while it’s setting treat the post. If the post and/or fence is wood that is to be stained, stain the entire length. At minimum, treat the portion that will go into the hole plus a few inches above. Moisture is the number one factor that will weaken a wood post prematurely. Even metal posts for chain link should be treated with a preservative, in order to keep rust at bay.
To start installing fence posts, place the post and wiggle it around to secure it into the gravel or eliminate any air bubbles in the concrete between the post and mortar. To make sure it’s straight, use a level. If necessary, tie string around the post in three directions and stake it, tensioning the string to make and keep the post straight.
Let everything sit for at least a day.
For added strength, fence posts can be braced at the base. A slat attached at a 45 degree on at least two sides (preferably three) is one option. A L-brace that can be staked into the ground and attached to the post is another option.
Place a small mound of earth and gravel at the base of each post in order to provide a method for water to run off.
If your ground is very firm, it’s possible to use instead metal fence post stakes to provide a support for the post. These are square metal ‘cups’ about six inches on an edge with a 12-18 inch long spike at the base. They’re hammered into the ground, then the post is placed in the ‘cup’ and secured with a nut and bolt. They can be very sturdy and support ample weight.
So, don’t let installing fence posts be the one task that scares you from building your own fence.
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